Chicago Marathon 2018 Race Recap

Here we are, a week out from Chicago and I am finally sitting down to write my recap. To make a long story short, I didn’t achieve my goal. After running 3:32 in less than ideal conditions in Hyannis, I felt ready to break 3:30 and that’s what I had trained for this whole cycle, but unfortunately I didn’t get it done on race day. But I’ll get to that.

Chicago BoundI flew out Friday afternoon and thankfully had no issues with my flight. I landed in Chicago around 3 and quickly Ubered to my hotel downtown (I stayed at the Congress Plaza hotel directly across from Grant Park and highly recommend it). I dropped my bags quick as I could and walked a couple blocks up the street to the Hilton where I was able to catch a free shuttle to the expo. There were multiple shuttle pick-up points throughout downtown, which I thought was an awesome touch on the organizers’ part.

After picking up my bib without incident, I wandered the expo, picking up some great swag and bumping into a few friends who were also running. With Chicago being my first World Major (and big city marathon), I was really excited to get some good gear at this one and the expo did not disappoint.

I got a late dinner with friends that evening and then crashed pretty hard back at the hotel.

Saturday came bright and early with some pretty intense thunderstorms. Thankfully, they seemed to have passed by the time I went out for my 20 minute shakeout run, but it did make me nervous about the weather for Sunday and whether the start would end up being delayed if there were storms. After my shakeout, I met up with the other Oiselle Volee members who were in town at a nearby Panera. I ended up sitting across from Allie Kieffer there, and LOVED getting to chat with her a bit about marathon training and her build to NYC (Allie is a professional runner who came in 5th at New York last year).

Oiselle Volee at Chicago Marathon(Allie is the one in the middle holding the baby – haha, that’s not her baby!)

In the afternoon, I went to a live podcast recording hosted by Bibrave, featuring Peter Sagal and Meb kKeflezighi. This ended up being SO entertaining (love Peter Sagal!) and the perfect activity to keep me off my feet and relaxing.

Oiselle VoleeThe Oiselle group who attended the podcast recording!

Chicago Marathon Bibrave live podcastAfter that, I just headed back to my hotel to relax and get ready for the big day. I watched some Netflix, laid my things out and generally did a good job keeping things very low-key. Going into the marathon, I knew I was going to be tempted to do ALL of the meet-ups and special events that were going on with the race, so I wanted to make a concerted effort to relax and do everything I could to ensure a good race day. Mission accomplished on that front at least.

That night, I read and tried to go to sleep around 9:45 or so. Unfortunately, as soon as I laid down, I started thinking about the race and getting excited. Despite using every trick in the book to try to fall asleep, my body wasn’t having it. I knew my sleep had been pretty good leading up to the race so I wasn’t overly stressed about it, but it was more annoying than anything else. All told, I think I got about 3 hours of sleep MAX that night. It was definitely the worst I’ve ever slept before a race, so maybe it did affect me but it’s hard to say.

FINALLY, my alarm was going off and it was time to get up. I got ready in my room, alternating between drinking coffee and Maurten. I had my bagel and peanut butter which I had brought with me and I was ready to go. Team Paws was doing a bag check/breakfast for team members right in the hotel I was staying in, so I popped down and dropped my bag off. This was much nicer than trying to deal with the craziness of the race bag check.

Team Paws Chicago MarathonI used the indoor bathrooms a couple times and wanted to use it ONE last time before heading out to the corrals, but the lines suddenly became INSANELY long in the hotel. The wave 1 runners for Team Paws were on their way out, so I headed out with them thinking I could just do a quick porta-potty stop before jumping in my corral (this was about 6:30 am, the race started at 7:30).

I should have known this would be cutting it too close for another bathroom stop. The lines for the porta-potties were INSANE. And even though there were a lot of them, the line barely moved. At 7:15, I heard someone say behind me that they closed the corrals at 7:20, so I immediately jumped out of line and headed to my corral (E – the last one in the first wave).

At this point, the crowds were PACKED. We were all standing on top of each other and people were jostling for position, but it was impossible to move very far. I tried to relax and stay calm, but mostly I was freaking out about the fact that I hadn’t been able to use the bathroom. I debated whether to stop for a porta-potty on course, but I knew that would probably add at least 1 minute (probably 2) to my time and I didn’t want to risk that and possibly miss my goal. I figured I’d give it a few miles to see if the feeling went away.

Chicago Marathon(Picture of the start from Saturday, hence the lack of runners)

FINALLY, the race began and my corral began to creep towards the front. It took a good 15 minutes for us to finally reach the start chute and actually cross the line. As we started, I thought to myself, “Here we go. 26.2 miles.”

The first few miles ticked by quickly. My coach had advised me to use the manual lap function on my GPS watch since the tall buildings and bridges completely throw GPS watches out of whack in Chicago. I was supposed to be around 8:10 – 8:15 for the first 10k. I clicked off the first mile in 8:06, followed by 8:26 and then 8:09.

I felt great. I was so excited that after MONTHS and MONTHS of hard work and anticipation, I was finally running the freaking Chicago Marathon. The spectators were amazing. Even though it was cool (low 60s) with spitting rain showers, the crowds were out and they were cheering.

(I was too focused to notice and/or smile in a SINGLE race photo. Oh well…)

I tried to settle in, knowing the plan was to pick up the pace a bit after the first 10k. According to the Chicago tracking app, I averaged 8:10/mile for the first 10k. On the fast side of what my coach had prescribed, but still within reason.

Miles 7 through 11, I was aiming for 8 – 8:05ish pace. I ran 7:52, 8:02, 8:02, 8:04, and 7:58. Pretty good. I was running relaxed and soaking in all the cheers I was getting for Team Paws along the course. I particularly loved the woman who was standing with her two dogs, who yelled out to me “We love Team Paws! They gave me these two!” I focused on sucking down my gels every 3-4 miles. I think around this point, I may have started using a mantra I had heard from Amy Cragg that I really liked – “I breathe in strength, I breathe out weakness.” I was still feeling good, I was more just trying to focus on my breath.

After mile 11, it was time to start getting more serious. The goal was 7:50-7:55 pace for the next 4 miles. I ran 7:58, 7:54, 7:51, 7:56 and 7:53. I checked my overall time as I came through the halfway point and I was at 1:45:56. A little behind where I wanted to be, and I definitely felt a little rush of nerves. On top of that, I could feel some light fatigue in my quads. I knew it was WAY too early to be feeling the miles, and that was my first inkling that maybe it wasn’t going to be my day.

It was after mile 16 that things began to fall apart more rapidly. I was supposed to be running 7:45ish pace, but I hit a 7:57 and then 8:06 for mile 18 and it was pretty much at that point that I realized sub 3:30 was not going to happen. I was using my mantras and trying to stay strong, but I just knew I didn’t have any more 7:45ish miles in my legs and I didn’t want to blow up with 8 more miles to go.

To my credit, I didn’t freak out. I decided to ease up and to try to have fun and enjoy the crowds and the experience as much as I could to the finish. I was NOT going to let myself walk, but I would run slower. Mile 19 was 8:09, followed by 8:49, 8:48, 8:49, 9:01, 8:50, 8:49 and 9:01 for mile 26. I wish I had been able to kick a little more at the end, but I was having this awful high chest cramp that wouldn’t go away.

After crossing the finish line, the emotions started to wash over me. 3:37 is a great marathon time and definitely not something to be ashamed of, but I just felt so sad to miss my PR and the BQ. On top of that, my legs were in HORRIBLE pain and the damn finishing chute was so long and they kept yelling at us to keep moving forward. All I wanted to do was sit down but there was nowhere to sit and I was getting cold and my bag was back with the Team Paws bags at the hotel.

In the hours after finishing, I really thought that this might be my last marathon. I couldn’t get over how much my legs hurt (and how much the last 8 miles hurt). To devote so many months to training and to miss my goal just sucked. Now that I’ve had a little time to reflect, I know I’m not done with the marathon. I’m going to take the spring off to focus on shorter stuff like the half marathon and the 10k – and any other race that sounds fun. 🙂 I also want to focus more on strength training so that I can really get ahead of the Achilles and hamstring issues that tend to plague me during marathon cycles. Next fall, I hope to be ready to take another crack at 26.2 miles.

And I would be remiss not to give everyone who reads this blog and supports me a HUGE THANK YOU. If you donated to my fundraising efforts, I am so grateful. I ended up raising $1800, $300 more than my required minimum. If you cheered for me or tracked me, THANK YOU. All of the positive vibes and support I felt throughout this training cycle was incredible.

Team Paws Chicago MarathonMarathon #5 is in the books!

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Harpoon 5 Miler Race Recap

Hello hello!

I am always so slow to post these, but I figured it was finally time to share my recap of the Harpoon 5-Miler that I ran last week.

Harpoon is a hugely popular race in the Boston area, and I’ve always heard it spoken about with the kind of reverence typically reserved for races like the Boston Marathon. In the past, it had a lottery system to get in and I was never alert enough to actually throw my name in. But this year, registration was on a first-come, first-serve basis and thanks to some friendly reminders from folks in my running groups, I was actually able to sign up! And good thing I did right away because it sold out in 30 minutes.

I haven’t been doing any crazy speed workouts since Hyannis, but I’ve been steadily base-building and getting more serious about focusing on my strength and core routine so I knew I was in pretty decent shape. After the 5k PR at Run for the Troops, I was pretty sure I’d be able to run fast, especially on such a flat course. My coach suggested taping my watch for this race – something I’ve never done before! I was excited by the idea. I could just go out and run hard and see what kind of time I could throw down with zero pressure.

The morning of the race, my friend and I parked in the North End and then jogged over to the Seaport, about 2 miles. It was cloudy but muggy and we were both sweating and happy to peel off our longsleeve shirts once we got there. We had a little time to walk around and check my bag and then it was time to make the way to the start!

Because the race is so big, I was having lots of anxiety about getting boxed in during the early miles. I was probably a little too worried about this honestly. But because I was being neurotic, I made sure I got up towards the front, amongst a LOT of very speedy runners (like former collegiate D1 runner types). Haha, I was a little out of my league, but I just kept telling myself that I was gonna go out “hard but comfortable”.

Well, the gun sounded and off we went! As I mentioned earlier, my watch was taped so I didn’t know exactly how fast I was running, but I knew I was pushing it. I kept telling myself to be careful; that I had 5 miles to go, but I felt good(ish). There were so many fast runners around me and I kind of let myself get pulled along with the tide.

The first mile was fast, but ok. I told myself to ‘lock in’ to the pace and I think I managed to do just that pretty well. I hadn’t really thought about it, but of course being in the shipping district of the seaport – there weren’t really any spectators. I was also running without music so it was almost eerily quiet.

Just after mile 2.5, the course looped back on itself and I was able to see all the other runners. At this point, I was entering the pain cave so I was honestly pretty oblivious to seeing anyone I knew. I was also trying really hard to keep pushing – it can be so easy in the middle miles of a 5k or 5-miler to become complacent and ‘reserve’ energy and I was trying to avoid doing that.

By mile 4, I was in rough shape. My watch was still beeping at mile splits, but I was so out of it, I had lost track of what mile I was on and thought I was finishing when I really still had a mile to go. That was a bit of a slap in the face. I could feel my pace slipping and I was cursing myself for going out so hard in the first mile. I also swore to myself I would never race another 5-miler as long as I lived.

I got passed by a lot of people in the last mile. I hate that. I love negative splitting and finishing strong. I tried to be mentally tough and I would say I held up for a long time, but the last mile was pretty dark. When I crossed the finish line, I sat down immediately against the fence with the help of a nice volunteer who was clearly a little concerned about me.

I was having a lot of difficulty figuring out my watch for some reason (seriously, I was out of it!) but I finally figured out my official time was 34:59, 7:00 average pace. 1 second faster per mile than on the 5k I ran in April. 🙂 I had taken the first mile out sub-7 and while I held on pretty good for 4 miles, I did fade badly by the end. And I can honestly say that in all my years of running, this was the closest I ever came to puking at the end of a race (I didn’t, but it truly was a close call). Not sure I should admit that on the blog, but I really am proud of how far I’ve come in being able to endure hard efforts for extended periods of time and that almost-puking sensation felt symbolic of my newfound grit.

Once I had recovered a bit, I looped back up with my friends and was able to take advantage of my drink tickets, grabbing a cider, which tasted pretty awesome by this point. The finish area filled up quickly as runners came in and the place took on a festive, party vibe. I was able to relax and soak in the accomplishment of what I had done.

Harpoon 5 Miler 2018 Recap

Initially, I was kind of beating myself up for going out so fast, but I had a good conversation with my coach about it. As she pointed out, rarely does anyone execute a perfectly negative split race with a taped watch. That’s not the point of it. You’re supposed to just throw down and see where the chips land. I never would have guessed I’d be able to average 7 flat over 5 miles. If I had run with my watch untaped, I probably would have aimed to be around 7:10/mile and I never would have discovered what I was capable of.

Harpoon 5 Miler Recap

So overall, I’d say Harpoon was a tremendous success and I hope to continue to run it in future years!


RACE RECAP: Hyannis Marathon

Wow, here we are.

I know I’ve been very quiet on the blog in the weeks leading up to Hyannis and truthfully, it was a combination of things. Like I posted about before, after the heartbreak of Philly, I really was paranoid about jinxing myself. I was also training pretty hard, and between running, working and trying to keep up with everything else in my life, I gave myself permission to let the blog stuff slide for the timebeing (knowing of course that I’d be back!).

But anyway… time to talk about Sunday.

Leading up to the race, I knew I was in EXCELLENT SHAPE – far better than I had been for any marathon I had run previously thanks to my coach. I had zero doubts that I would be able to run a big PR. My previous PR was a 3:53 that I had run at Baystate in 2016. The question was whether I could sneak under the 3:35 mark, thereby securing a Boston qualifying time for my age group. After running the Boston Prep 16-Miler and having a great race, I really allowed myself to start hoping. I was hitting that 8:00/mile pace and feeling strong and comfortable holding it. The big factor was going to be the weather on race day.

So like any lunatic who has been training for months on end, I started stalking the weather (well before there was any chance the forecast would be accurate). At first, it was supposed to be sunny and a high of 50. Then, partly cloudy and a high of 50. Then, a chance of rain. And as race day got closer, there was a 100% chance of rain. ALL DAY. It was going to be rainy and windy from start to finish in Hyannis.

Hyannis Marathon 2018

Not ideal marathon weather.

I won’t lie – this made me nervous. But I thought back to the book Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron (great sports psychology book that I highly recommend). In one scene, he talks about how one of his crossfit athletes responded to doing a warm-up outside on a particularly cold February day in New England.

She’d been about to say, “It was really cold,” but she’s conditioned not to complain to the point where something like that – which to others, is simply stating a fact about the weather – physically can’t make its way out of her mouth. Saying it’s cold outside may appear to be simply stating a fact, but it’s actually more detrimental than it might seem in the short term. Focusing on negative feelings or circumstances… brings greater focus to things that are ultimately outside of your control and are potentially detrimental to your performance. In no competitive or life scenario will focusing on negative uncontrollable factors improve your performance or stress levels.

Everytime I found myself concerned about the rain, I reminded myself I was too prepared to have a bad day, no matter what the weather. I told myself that some rain and wind was just going to make achieving my goal that much more special and my goal race more ‘epic’. In the days leading up to the race, I kept feeling that I was on the verge of something special. I’m a big believer in sports psychology and looking back, I’m really proud of how I shaped my mindset going into this race. I truly believe it made a HUGE difference.

The race started at 10 am Sunday morning. I had asked my friend Lis to help pace me in the final miles and she and her equally speedy roommate had decided to sign up for the marathon relay. My friend would run the first 13 miles with me, and her roommate Mckenna would take over for the second 13 miles (it was a double loop course). We made the drive down from Boston with plenty of time to spare and picked up our bibs no problem. The race was hosted by the Cape Cod Resort and Conference Center so thankfully we were able to hang out inside and stay warm (and use real bathrooms) in the hour and a half we had till the start.

Before I knew it, we were in the starting corral, waiting for the gun to go off. I had already soaked through my shoes doing a short warm-up and drills and I idly wondered to myself how many blisters I was going to rack up on this race. My friend and her roommate used to run for Ole Miss and they had decided to wear their old singlets and shorts, so there was a lot of joking around with other runners at the start about how tough she looked among the other well-bundled runners. Finally, the gun went off and we were on our way.

My coach had sent me over an awesome, very detailed race plan for what paces I should hit to negative split the race and I was so happy to finally get to work. In the training build-up, my favorite workouts were always the long tempo runs with sections at 8 min pace and faster. Something about these workouts always made the miles FLY by for me. It was time to execute again, just over the course of a few more miles. 😉

Mile 1 – 8:09, Mile 2 – 8:09, Mile 3 – 8:07

This was a hair on the fast side of what my coach had prescribed (8:10-8:15), but I felt very comfortable and relaxed so I tried not to worry too much. The rain was coming down steadily but it wasn’t a torrential downpour, so I was grateful it wasn’t impacting my running. Yes, there were some HUGE puddles and some were pretty much unavoidable, but apart from that I was good.

Mile 4 – 8:04, Mile 5 – 8:09, Mile 6 – 8:05, Mile 7 – 8:07

I’ve never been much of one to talk too much during a race, but having Lis with me on this first lap kept me so relaxed and I was heartened to see I felt fine having short conversations with her. I had one earbud in for a little music but we were able to chat and joke a little which helped me forget I was going to be running in the rain for the next 3 hours. She kept checking in and asking how I was doing and I think it was around mile 7 where I told her that I thought I could do it. No, the weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t negatively impacting me apart from being soaking wet. It was definitely early in the race to be having these thoughts, but I think it was also good that I ran with confidence.

Mile 8 -8:08, Mile 9 – 7:58 (whoops, got a little fast there), Mile 10 – 8:12

The Hyannis Marathon also has a half and marathon relay so there were still plenty of other runners around us at this point which helped keep the atmosphere a little more festive. The volunteers were also AWESOME. We got so many cheers going through water stations and I am so grateful to all those poor people who must have been SO COLD standing there in the rain passing out water. Even on a nice day, I’m guessing Hyannis doesn’t draw a lot of spectators so I was doubly thankful for those volunteers.

Somewhere in this phase, I realized I wasn’t even counting down miles like I usually do in a race. I was generally aware of what mile it was, but I wasn’t thinking much about how many miles to go or how long I had left. I truly was running the mile I was in. I think partly because of this, I was almost surprised when it was Mile 13 and I said goodbye to my friend and hello to her speedy roomie.

Mile 11 – 8:06, Mile 12- 8:04, Mile 13 – 7:59

Right as we set off on the second loop, I had the thought, “Ok, sh*t’s about to get real.” All the half marathoners were gone, there’d be fewer runners on the course, the miles were getting up there, AND it was time to start working a little harder. I felt nervous for a second and then I pushed the thoughts away.

I told myself – ‘Get to Mile 20 and then you can grind it out to the finish.’ McKenna did a great job during this stretch of latching onto a pace and setting the rhythm.

Mile 14 – 7:59, Mile 15 – 7:59, Mile 16 – 7:55

There was a time not too long ago when I thought it would be a cold day in hell before I saw a split with a 7:xx on my watch during a marathon. Part of me still felt a sense of disbelief that here I was, at mile 16 of a marathon and I was actually running FASTER and feeling good doing it.

Hyannis MarathonMile 17 – 7:57, Mile 18 – 7:54, Mile 19 – 8:04

Right around Mile 20, things got tough. I had been working hard before, but at Mile 20, it got exponentially difficult. Not like I hit a wall and physically couldn’t run – but like suddenly every environmental factor possible conspired to slow me down.

My coach and I had talked about cutting down to the mid to high 7:40s for the last 6 miles, but as she had also said to me, “you’ve got to play it by ear and see what you’ve got in those last 6 miles.” At that point in time, a 7:45 mile was unfathomable to me. But I said to McKenna, “Let’s see if we can cut down to 7:50 miles”.

No sooner had I said that, that we started hitting the hills in the course. Overall, the course is pretty flat with a couple of rolling hills. They hadn’t felt like much in the first 13 miles, but now I was suddenly feeling them. I’m also convinced the wind picked up during the last 6 miles, but it honestly could have been that I was just more tired.

Mile 21 – 8:02, Mile 22 – 7:52, Mile 23 – 7:55

Things were really and truly starting to suck at this point. Gone were the moments of lighthearted conversation from the first half. I could only grunt or throw a thumbs up when McKenna would point out a runner ahead of us and say “Come on, let’s catch the guy in yellow before we hit 22”.

Somewhere around here, we hit my least favorite part of the course. Overall,the course  was very pretty, passing by the ocean and crossing quiet neighborhood roads without much traffic. This stretch was a coned off section along a very busy main road. The coned section was extremely narrow and filled with puddles, making it difficult to pass. To make matters worse, the wind along here was BRUTAL. I was desperately trying to hit my 7:50 splits and coming up short pretty much every single time.

It was in this stretch that my mental game wavered. For the first time, I wondered if I was going to completely fall apart in these last few miles and lose everything that I had worked so hard for up to this point.

Mile 24 – 8:09 (I think there was a hill here), Mile 25 – 7:57, Mile 26 – 8:03

Finally, we made a turn into a neighborhood and I remembered from studying the course in the weeks prior, that there was this weird little segment through the neighborhood right before the finish to get the mileage just before turning into the Cape Cod Resort parking lot. I said to Mckenna,  “We’re so f**king close” (I don’t usually swear a lot but I was kind of an emotional wreck at this point). She asked what my cumulative time was on my watch but I didn’t even have the energy or courage to click the button on my watch to change the screen and look. Part of me really believed that I hadn’t been fast enough in the final miles and that I would lose all my motivation if I looked at the number.

.4 to the finish – 7:27/mile pace.

Somehow when I realized the finish was actually RIGHT there, I was able to kick as we came up on the finish. I could not believe my eyes when I saw 3:32 on the clock, crossing right then (official time 3:32:01). I nearly burst into tears because I could not believe I had done it. 3:32. A BQ by 3 minutes. A PR by a full 21 minutes.

Hyannis Marathon Race RecapI think back to how heartbroken I was after straining my hamstring and not being able to run Philly, and it’s amazing to me how it all worked out. I was so depressed to not run the full there, but now I am so unbelievably grateful about how the whole situation played out. I am so thankful that my coach supported me and never stopped believing in me (even when I came to her with the crazy goal of BQing 16 months ago when my marathon PR was a 3:53). Or when I said I wanted to run a full marathon in February on the Cape. I am so glad I have wonderful running friends who were so willing and happy to help me achieve my goal, even when it became clear just how terrible the weather was going to be. I am so thankful to all my wonderful, supportive friends who remembered that February 25th was my race day and took the time to reach out and wish me luck.

Honestly, I think even now 5 days later, I’m still high on running endorphins.

Hyannis Marathon Race RecapI think there was a second right after I finished when I thought, I may never run another marathon – that was so painful. Famous last words! I’m already thinking about what’s next. I just took 21 minutes off my marathon time. I have taken OVER AN HOUR off the time that I first ran the marathon in. (4:36 -> 3:57 -> 3:53 -> 3:32). I truly feel like anything is possible right now.

So I’ll just be here, soaking in this magic for as long as I can.

hyannis marathon

 


Philly Half Marathon Race Recap

So this post is coming to you very late but I figured better late than never!

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about going to Philly after having to downgrade from the marathon to the half, but with train tickets booked and time requested off from work, I was determined to have a good time.

My mom and I traveled down by train on Friday afternoon. It was an easy and comfortable trip and once we got to Philadelphia, we took a cab right over to the expo. It was a little bigger than I expected but well organized and I was quickly able to grab my number and shirt. We didn’t spend too much time shopping around the expo since I wanted to limit the swag purchasing.

That evening, we checked into our Airbnb with some takeout hamburgers from Spot Gourmet Burgers. If you are ever in the Philly area, I highly recommend as this burger might have been the best burger I’ve ever eaten.

We had a very low key evening, watching some Netflix and going to bed early since the half marathon was on Saturday (the full was on Sunday).

Philly Half Marathon

Obligatory pre-race bathroom selfie

The next day I woke up early and Ubered down to the start which was only a mile and a half or so from our Airbnb. I had heard the security lines could get long for this race so I showed up an hour early. There were hardly any other runners there at this point! It was a pretty cold morning and I hadn’t brought any layers since my mom was was going to bring my bag at the finish so I didn’t love having to wait so long in the cold to get going. But, I suppose it’s better than running late.

Philly Half MarathonAt least I got an awesome view of the sunrise!

Philly Half Marathon15 minutes or so before the start, I headed into my corral. It was not crazy packed like the NYC Marathon gets which I was extremely grateful for. I was wearing my Heartbreaker (that is the name of my Boston run club) singlet and within five minutes of being in the corral, another Heartbreaker said hello! (if you’re reading this, hi Sarah!) After chatting for a few minutes, it sounded like we had similar pace goals in mind so we decided to run together for the first few miles.

Right at 7:30, we were off! The start of this race was really beautiful, right through downtown Philadelphia. A decent number of spectators lined the start area and it was great to have that support. I think I have done one too many small races because I get way too excited anytime I see people cheering while I am running a race. 🙂

I’m not sure why, but looking back at my splits for the race, the first six miles fluctuate between around 8:30/mile pace and low 8s. Truthfully, this was a little faster than I had really intended to go, but once I was running I felt great and decided to just roll with it.

At mile 6, I said goodbye to Sarah and made plans to meet up for a photo at the finish. Then I decided to push the pace a little more. This stretch had great support. There was cheering, signs, marching bands playing drums – it was an incredible atmosphere. I definitely got a little swept up in it all and ended up running a 7:43 for that mile.

From there, I backed off a little bit back to my marathon pace, right around 8:00/mile. There was a bit of a hill at Mile 9 but I felt strong and didn’t get intimidated by it. I hit Mile 9 in 8:05 and Mile 10 in 8:10. From there, I could tell I still had plenty of gas still in the tank so I decided it was go-time.

There’s nothing I love more than being able to pick it up and pass tons of people at the end of the race. I’ve had races where I’ve had injuries act up which have kept me slow and races where I’ve just died in the final miles and it’s given me such a deep appreciation for that feeling of strength at the end of the race because it doesn’t always happen.

I hit Mile 12 in 7:33. At this time, I started to get a stomach cramp which hardly ever happens for me, but it did force me to slow down a bit, running Mile 13 in 7:45. By my GPS watch, I ran a 1:46:57 with an 8:03/mile average pace.

Philly Half MarathonI was absolutely stoked about this. For one, this is only a couple minutes off my PR and I felt like I was running really easy in the beginning. Two, this is right where I need to be for my marathon pace in February.

February 25th is still a long ways away and I’ve learned not to overly fixate on a goal race because who the hell knows what will happen with injuries and whatnot, but I will say I’m cautiously excited. I know postponing my marathon was the right decision and it will be fun to see how it pays off.


Rock n Roll Montreal Race Recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock n Roll Montreal] as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

This past weekend, I got to check off 2 items on my running bucket list –

  1. Run an international race.
  2. Run a Rock n Roll race.

Check and check!

Montreal is about a five hour drive for me making it a very doable road trip. I enlisted a couple of friends to join me for the adventure and we made the drive up the Friday before the race.

As far as fitness goes, I was feeling extremely prepared for this half marathon (my 19th!). I’ve been regularly running long runs in the range of 12-14 miles and I was excited to use the race as a tempo workout since my main focus is on the Philly Marathon right now. Yeah, my Achilles had been giving me some issues but it had been responding very well to physical therapy and dry needling so I didn’t anticipate that being an issue at all. I was correct in that it wasn’t my Achilles that gave me issues, but I’ll get to that…

My friend and I finally got to our hotel around 5 pm on Friday. We were staying at a Holiday Inn in downtown Montreal that had been listed as one of the recommended hotels on the RnR website. This worked GREAT. We were about half a mile from the expo and right across from the metro station (which was free for all runners to use on race day!).

Saturday, I woke up a little early and went out for an easy 5 miler in the city, only getting slightly lost in the process. It was a nice quiet morning, but even at 7 am, you could tell it was heating up. According to one of our Uber drivers, this weather was very unusual for Montreal – it was 85 degrees on Sunday! Race organizers even decided to cancel the full marathon that was originally scheduled to take place along with the half marathon. While I feel horrible for all the folks who spent months and months preparing to run 26.2 miles this past weekend, I do think this was the right decision. There was not a lot of shade out on that course and those are just brutal conditions to run a marathon in. Participants had the option to downgrade to the half marathon, transfer to a different Rock n Roll event, or get a full refund, which I think was a fair solution to a bad situation.

After getting a nice carb-loaded breakfast with my friends, we walked over to the expo. It was in a large convention hall which was definitely a little confusing to navigate. We weren’t really sure if we were going the right way a lot of the time and we saw other runners who looked a little lost as well, but we finally made our way to the entrance hall. I had printed out my confirmation sheet with my bib and corral # on it earlier in the week, so I breezed right through to pick up my bib and shirt (which I LOVE!).

Rock n Roll Montreal

The expo was pretty big with plenty of vendors and my friends and I had a blast walking around and checking it all out. We had plenty of samples, did a little shopping, and tested out the coolest foot massage machine EVER (I may need to add this to my Christmas list).

Rock n Roll MontrealEven with none of us speaking French, we had no issues communicating with anyone or figuring out where to go once in the expo. I didn’t know quite what to expect in terms of a language barrier, but thankfully we never had any problems.

The rest of the day we spent walking around touring the area. If I had been trying to PR, I would have been more worried about all the time on my feet, but I knew it wasn’t going to be that type of race so I didn’t stress about it. I tried to just focus on constantly hydrating to prepare for the temperatures.MontrealMontreal Rock n Roll Marathon

Rock n Roll MontrealAll the walking around definitely tired us out because my friends and I were happy to chill in the hotel room in the evening, eating dinner from our beds and watching a couple of movies. I had a little trouble falling asleep, but slept well once I finally passed out.

Finally, it was race morning! I got up at 5 and prepared my usual pre-run breakfast of toast with almond butter and honey and coffee while I got dressed. I headed out to the train station around 6 am, wanting to be on the early side for the 7:30 start. Thankfully, there were plenty of other runners in the train station and I had zero issues figuring out where to go. I had to switch lines after a couple of stops on one train and when I got on the second train, I found myself standing right next to another Bibrave Pro, Bradley! It was great having a friend to chat with about running and other Rock n Roll races as we made our way to the start.

Rock n Roll MontrealOrange is the new fast!!

As we climbed up onto the Jacques Cartier bridge where the race began, we got incredible views of the sunrise, the amusement park La Ronde, and all the corrals stretching out across the bridge!

Rock n Roll Montreal

I was pretty excited to be starting in Corral 2 (I put 1:45 as my seed time which I was surprised put me this far up!). The only thing about starting on the bridge was that it made it logistically challenging to warm up. Most of the bridge was reserved for the corrals with a narrow driving lane on one side for police and race officials. I had wanted to run a mile pre-race, but that didn’t really end up happening. I settled for dynamic drills in my corral.

Rock n Roll MontrealRight on time, we were off! The elites in Corral 1 started first and then my corral was up, about 3 minutes later. The first section of the workout my coach had written for me for the race was 2 x 2 miles at 8:01/mile with half mile recoveries. My first 2 miles were 7:54 and 8:00. A teeny bit fast, but the first mile was shaded and downhill, so I didn’t think it was an issue. I slowed down for my half mile recovery and gave myself a little pat on the back for hitting my first few paces. For the second set, I ran 8:02 and 7:53. I was feeling on top of the world, thinking to myself that I was going to NAIL the workout. The course was pretty flat so despite the warm temperatures, I was feeling really strong, enjoying the bands and the whole race atmosphere.

The next section of the workout was 2 x 2 miles at 7:32 pace with mile recoveries. I knew this was going to be tougher than the 8:00/mile pace but I felt pretty confident I would be able to handle it. For the first mile, I was right on target for around 7:35, but dropped to a 7:40 after slowing slightly at a water station. Still, pretty good. Then, there was a somewhat sharp turn up a steep ramp onto a bridge to take us back into Montreal. As I pushed up this ramp, I felt my hamstring twinge. I tried to keep pushing along at my 7:30 pace, but the pain along the back of my knee kept intensifying with every stride. Not good. I realized it was not a cramp and that it was not going to resolve itself, so I backed way off. Running around a 9 minute pace with smaller strides seemed to help so I settled into that while I tried to figure out what to do. I thought about dropping out. I didn’t want to do any serious damage. I honestly didn’t know how that would work though. I was worried about finding my friends after the race (we weren’t able to text since we had all turned our cellular data off) and I thought if I dropped out that I would get caught up with the medical and wouldn’t be able to connect with them.

I decided to keep going, but I let go of the idea of anymore sub-8 miles. The race really switched for me at this point. It went from being totally awesome/such a great day/so much fun to I just want this to be over/don’t cheer for me, this sucks/what the eff do I do. I tried to think back to what the hell had brought this on and I remembered when I had been strength training on Monday that week. I had gone to do some hamstring curls with an exercise ball – I did one and felt my right hamstring twinge. I immediately stopped and thought to myself, “That didn’t feel good, I think I’m done with those.” I had run plenty of easy miles later that week and kind of forgot about it since everything seemed fine.

Apparently not.

I dramatically slowed down from Miles 9-13 and tried to focus on enjoying the setting and the race itself. Back in mainland Montreal, there were TONS of spectators and so much cheering. I was really sad that my leg wasn’t cooperating because it was literally the perfect atmosphere to push yourself – I don’t think I’ve ever run a half marathon with that many spectators. I started to feel a tiny bit better between miles 10-12 and thought I might be able to finish at around 8:30-ish pace. I ran 8:49/8:37/8:18 for miles 10,11, and 12. And then my hamstring seized up even worse than the first time. It almost felt like a cramp, it felt so severe.

I pulled over to the side and tried to stretch for a few seconds, but I didn’t have much hope that it was going to help. From there, it was a slow shuffle to the end. I was constantly getting passed and mentally I just felt like a wreck again. By this time it was really hot too. Thankfully, there were tons of fire hydrants that the city had opened along the course so that runners could cool off by running through the spray.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally reached the finish line. I got a cold soaked towel, my medal and a bottle of water. My official time ended up being 1:52. I really wanted to find the med tent to get some ice but I never found it. The park where we finished was pretty big, which was great but did make it a little tricky to find things. Thankfully, my friends and I had picked a spot to meet up at and we quickly found each other.

Rock n Roll MontrealLove the medal!!

Overall, I was very impressed with the Rock and Roll experience. The bands along the course were frequent and added such a festive element to the race. They had also clearly taken a lot of precautions to keep the runners safe in the warm temps (plenty of water stations, opened fire hydrants, misters along course). While there were a few moments when I wished there had been somewhat better signage/direction, it was pretty dang smooth for a race with 10,000-ish runners. Sunday wasn’t my day, but I’ll just take that as a good excuse to start looking for another Rock n Roll race to sign up for!

 


Half at the Hamptons Recap

Hey All,

I’m back! Apologies for disappearing the past few weeks and leaving you hanging on the Half at the Hamptons. If you follow me on social media, you’ll know the race was not really the result I had been looking for and I needed some time to process it. The week after the race, I was traveling for work so writing the race recap got pushed back even more.

But I’m here now. 🙂

So let’s rewind to two weeks back when my mom and I headed up to Hampton, NH for the race.

When I first started weather-stalking the race (ie, checking weather.com every few hours for the raceday forecast), they were calling for temps in the high 40s and sunny. I got so excited I was even contemplating wearing shorts.

Half at the HamptonsI jinxed myself the minute I posted this tweet.

As the race drew closer, that high temperature steadily dropped. We ended up having a high around 32 and a very cold wind off the ocean. Not exactly ideal racing conditions.

Half at the Hamptons

FML.

My mom and I drove up Saturday night as I had decided to book a room in the hotel that was hosting the packet pick-up and post-race party. It was a really cute hotel, right on the ocean. You could tell it was the kind of place that would be PACKED during the summer, but it was very quiet for the beginning of March.

We had a quiet night on Saturday, eating dinner at the hotel restaurant and relaxing with some movies on TV before turning in early. I felt relaxed and honestly I was just excited to race. It didn’t even occur to me to be nervous.

The race started at 10 am on Sunday so I was able to sleep in comfortably. I had my pre-race bagel with almond butter and honey and layered up in my warmest clothes. I picked up my bib easily in the morning and headed out into the cold for a light warm-up.

It became obvious very quickly after going outside just how cold it was. I jogged along the beach for my warm-up and while the views were beautiful, it was kind of hard to enjoy in the wind. Still, I focused on jogging a couple miles knowing how important it would be for my muscles to be nice and warm for the start of the race.

After discussing with Mary, the plan for the race was to go out around 7:45 and to hold that for the first 3 miles. Most of the tempo work we had done during the training cycle was around 7:36/mile, so I knew that was a nice, conservative pace to start with. From there, the plan was to steadily drop the pace, hopefully leading to a negative split. The plan was a solid one, but sometimes even the most well laid-out plans don’t end up happening.

I lined up in the corral with all the other bundled runners and right on time, we were off. This was it. Months of hard work and 5 am wake-up calls were all coming down to this. I was definitely feeling the excitement during the first mile and I had to reign myself in a bit to keep to the 7:45 goal.

Mile 1: 7:46

Mile 2: 7:45

Mile 3: 7:46

My splits were RIGHT ON for the first 3 miles and I was stoked. I felt strong. Then came the straightaway along the ocean. We were running right into a fierce headwind. I tucked in and prepared to dial the pace down a notch.

And nothing. I felt like I was pushing harder than I had in the first 3 miles, but the split on my watch was going UP not down. Mary had advised me not to panic in the event of wind, so I sucked it up and figured I would make up the time in the next few miles once we were off the ocean a bit.

Mile 4: 7:49.

At this point, I still wasn’t too nervous. I thought I’d settle in and be able to work my way down to the 7:30s.

Just as I was thinking this came the hills. I had NOT expected any sort of incline. From what I had been able to find online, the race was supposed to be flat and fast. Well, I overheard another runner say that they changed the course this year so all my research and planning was out the window. I was peeved about the hill, but I sucked it up and did my best to keep running hard.

Half at the HamptonsYeah, that’s not flat.

Mile 5: 7:50

Mile 6: 7:53

At this point, I think I realized that things were really falling apart. Every time the wind would die down and I would think to myself it was time to push, I’d hit a hill and even with the increased effort, my pace would slow. If there wasn’t a hill, then it was the wind slowing me down. I tried to do my gels but I felt like I couldn’t breathe and swallow them at the same time. During my training, I had typically done my gels in between intervals which is all fine and dandy, but when it came down to it, I didn’t feel comfortable trying to take them while running fast. That was a stupid mistake on my part and something I need to think about more for my next half.

Mile 7: 8:16

Crap. At this point, I had really just been hoping to keep all my miles sub-8. So much for that goal.

From there, it was an absolute grind to the finish. I was still hoping and thinking I would finish in under 1:45, but my lofty goal of 1:39 was 100% out the window. Mentally, I just wanted this race to be over.

Mile 8: 7:58

Mile 9: 7:55

Mile 10: 7:58

I felt like absolute crap and knew I only had a 5k to go. I wanted to push. I really did. But we were back at that straightaway along the ocean and the wind was blasting me. I watched the pace fall off on my watch and felt absolutely powerless to do anything about it.

Mile 11: 8:00

Mile 12: 8:12

Mile 13: 8:21

I crossed the finish in 1:45. I immediately felt a sense of defeat upon seeing the clock. Not only did I miss my goal, but I didn’t even break my PR. After all the effort and all the training, I failed.

Half at the HamptonsHappy to be done. Not happy with the result.

My mom and I hurried back into the hotel to warm up. It seemed like it would have been a pretty nice post-race party with free beer, soup, and hot chocolate, but I didn’t feel much like celebrating. My stomach also felt like it was tied up in knots, much the way it gets after a marathon.

So obviously, I’m still disappointed that I didn’t reach my goal. But here’s the thing: I KNOW I’m in awesome shape and better trained than the last time I ran a 1:45. I KNOW I’m capable of a faster time. And now that I’ve had some time to let that sting of disappointment fade a bit, I look back and think ‘hey, I raced really freaking well for those conditions.’ My average pace ended up being 7:58/mile and to run that on such a terribly cold, windy day on a course that threw a few significant climbs my way? That’s actually a solid performance.

Everyone has races that don’t go their way. That’s part of the sport. You try to control everything you can in training, but on the actual day of the race, you also need a little bit of luck for everything to come together perfectly. It didn’t happen for me at the Half at the Hamptons, but that’s ok. All it means is that I need to start hunting for half marathon #18 so I can give sub 1:45 another shot.


Boston River Run 5k

Happy Monday folks!

Can you believe we’re pretty much halfway through November? I can’t. But, I’m stoked that Thanksgiving is only a short 2 weeks away. 🙂 I can’t think of anything better than a holiday that includes a race, time with family, and LOTS of pie. Seriously, Thanksgiving is the holiday of all holidays for runners!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This past weekend, I ran the first 5k of 3 that I recently signed up for, the Boston River Run 5k. This was a small race held at Artesani Park along the Charles River in Boston. This was also my first race (and sustained effort) since Baystate. Chatting with my mom on Friday, we spontaneously decided to turn it into a girls weekend, even though she couldn’t run (injuries suck). We had a low-key night on Saturday, which was perfect since I was pretty exhausted from working an event Saturday morning.

On Sunday, we Ubered over to the park with plenty of time for me to grab my bib and fit in a decent warm-up. It was sunny and in the low 50’s, pretty much a beautiful fall day. I jogged an easy mile and then did some stretching and drills followed by a few strides. In the past, I’ve been very  loosey-goosey with my warm-ups, but I’m making an effort to try to include them now because they do make a huge difference.

We listened to the National Anthem and then lined up. My mom got into place to play race photographer. 🙂 It was a bit of a narrow bike path that we were running on, so I tried to put myself towards the front of the corral so that I wouldn’t have to weave around people like crazy. Right at 9 am, we were off!

I must have been pretty excited that first mile because I really took off. Probably a little too fast. But, the 5k is kind of supposed to be all out, so I’m still  struggling with figuring out how one is supposed to pace it. Anyway, I took off like a bat out of hell and was running hard with some very fast ladies at the front of the pack. I looked down at my watch and saw that my pace was in the 6:40 range. Eek. This was going to hurt. I hit the first mile in 6:57. As far as I know, this is the fastest mile I have ever run. Pretty exciting stuff, but running another 2 miles after that was really freaking hard.

After the first mile, it finally registered in my brain that I still had another 2.1 miles to go and that I was going to need to slow down a bit. There was a slight incline as we crossed a bridge to the other side of the river which also slowed me down a bit. I tried to concentrate on my breathing, but that was slightly alarming because I sounded like I was dying (I have mild exercise-induced asthma and it’s worse in the cold air). So I just tried to focus on the couple of runners ahead of me, trying to keep pace with them. Second mile – 7:31. I slowed down by more than 30 seconds, but this still felt tough!

Once I was past Mile 2, it all became about survival. I only had a mile to go, so I just had to hold steady and try not to fall apart anymore than I already was. We passed a water station and I was tempted to grab a cup but I knew it would probably add seconds onto my time (not really an issue in a marathon, but in a 5k, those seconds matter!).

Boston River Run 5k

After what felt like an eternity, we were finally looping back into the park where the spectators were waiting. My watch beeped for Mile 3 – 7:33. Score! I had managed to hold the pace for another mile. I sprinted across the finish, stride for stride with an older gentleman who had caught up to me during the third mile. Final time: 22:57, which comes to an average pace of 7:19 per mile.

Boston River Run 5k

Boston River Run 5kALMOST THERE!!

Overall, I’m happy with this effort. This does make me realize though that what I consider my 5k PR (the 22:29) was 100% because the course was short. My average pace for that race was 7:24/mile. Slower than what I ran on Sunday, but roughly 30 seconds faster in overall time, which doesn’t make sense. So if that course had been the correct 3.1 miles, I would have finished in 22:56, pretty much equivalent to what I ran today.

So this puts me in a bit of a conundrum. I guess if I’m being realistic, I should call today’s 22:57 my PR. Either that, or I just have to go out and run another 5k (on an accurate course) and beat 22:29. I’ll have another shot in a few weeks on Thanksgiving so we will see what happens then! 🙂

Are you running a turkey trot? Have you run a short course before? Favorite type of pie on Thanksgiving? I’m a big fan of pecan pie myself. 🙂